New Great Firewall Restrictions In China Could Backfire

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

China is bearing down on foreign press with a new rule banning all foreign media from publishing online. The new rule went into effect on 10 March and affects everything from radio and television to music and film. The dictate reinforces the state’s de-facto control of the internet and provides the Chinese cyber-police with a legal toolkit to assert their “cyber sovereignty” inside the Great Firewall of China.

The joint decree from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television bars any and all foreign media companies from publishing online in China and reinforces the monopoly held by officially sanctioned Chinese media publishers.

This edict is indicative of an entrenchment in China’s approach to the internet. More than two million cyber-police officers are tasked with sustaining the country’s censorship regime. While the overwhelming majority of media in China is consumed in native tongues, the government is increasingly worried about the proliferation of foreign influences on its subjects. Foreign outlets such as the New York Times, Reuters, and the Financial Times are frequently blocked in the country.

China claims the new rules are necessary in the face of the growing threat of global terrorism and the multiplying challenges in online security. However,experts warn that this tightly controlled access to the internet could backfire on the Chinese establishment. The new rules could stifle innovation in the digital realm and hurt the prospects of emerging industries that could be worth billions of dollars, warns Robert Atkinson, president of Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

“This policy reflects that internal contradiction of the party wanting to maintain control. At the same time, innovation really means letting go of control and letting a thousand flowers bloom,” he said.